March 07, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Stopping NYC stop-and-frisks
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A federal court has found the New York Police Department's Operation "Clean Halls" to be unconstitutional. Under this program, NYPD officers had permission to stop and frisk anyone found in and around apartment buildings located in high crime areas. While the NYPD claimed it was necessary to stop drug- related and violent crimes, the program did little more than make many New Yorkers prisoners in their own homes and neighborhoods.
In early January 2013, Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to cease "stop-and-frisks" under the Clean Halls program unless officers had reasonable suspicion of a person's involvement in criminal activity. However, just two weeks later, the same judge sided with city attorneys and lifted the order. She ruled that an abrupt halt of Operation Clean Halls would cause undue hardship to the NYPD by requiring "notification to and/or training of" thousands of officers and supervisors.
The judge ruled that stop-and-frisksmade under the Clean Halls program could continue while her earlier decision is pending appeal and she contemplates what relief she will grant as part of her ruling. Nothing in the most recent ruling changes the Court's finding that Clean Halls is unconstitutional. But until further notice, these blatant abuses of authority and violations of constitutional rights will persist.
A heavy toll
That few Clean Halls residents escaped the long arm of the NYPD is an understatement. The New York Civil Liberties Union reports that in 2011, NYPD officers stopped 1,137 of the 1,857 Bronx Clean Halls residents and almost 700,000 people citywide. Worse yet, the police disproportionately targeted young black and Latino men. While the NYPD claims their stop-and-frisks are effective crime fighting tactics that improve the safety of the buildings, many disagree.
In 2012, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi explained the reality of Clean Halls tactics. He said, "If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can't even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID -- and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person."
Public protests and outcry against Operation Clean Halls had been mounting and was vindicated when Judge Scheindlin ruled, "While it may be difficult to say when precisely to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters such a line exists, and the NYPD has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside buildings." Unfortunately, such police encounters will continue into the near future.
Causes of action
No one is above the law, including the police. When they continue to harass citizens through unconstitutional tactics, they open themselves, their department and the city to lawsuits. Such lawsuits force the city to pay those whose rights have been violated. The New York City Law Department reports that the city paid $119 million for police misconduct and civil rights violations during the fiscal year ending June 2011.
In class action suits such as the one currently being considered by Judge Scheindlin, payouts can be in the millions. This can be based on state tort laws or federal "section 1983" actions for civil rights violations. With the federal court's holding that Operation Clean Halls was a systematic violation of constitutional rights, the number of lawsuits for such violations are sure to increase. Hopefully everyone who has endured the harassment of Clean Halls will get every penny they deserve.
Have you been targeted?
If you have been the subject of a stop-and-frisk, or any other police action and believe your constitutional rights might have been violated in the process, seek the counsel of a criminal defense attorney who can help you get justice.---
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